Thursday, September 4, 2014

Easy Jalfrezi



Jalfrezi is likely a Raj era invention from Bengal side that has morphed into a dish that appears in many interpretations.

For some, it is Indo-Chinese and requires stock powder, corn starch, and soy sauce. For others, it is a protein like paneer or chicken plus a medley of vegetables. Some like it fairly dry, and others like it in a wet tomatoey gravy. Some people use ketchup in their recipe, and in some restaurant style recipes it is creamy.

However it is made, the common factor in chicken jalfrezi seems to be that it must have bell peppers (aka capsicum) in it. Some people also like onions cut into petals in it. I am not a huge fan of lightly cooked onions, so I don't add those. Here is my very simple and easy version. For this you will need a curry powder type mix like Shan Curry Powder or a Kitchen King Masala. I use MDH Kitchen King Masala.

This recipe is as simple as a daily dish in method, but yields a bell pepper-chicken curry that is unique enough to serve at a party. The soy sauce adds an extra layer of flavor.

1 small organic chicken skinless and cut into karhai pieces (bone in)
1/4 cup oil
4 fresh green chiles, slit but intact
1 small onion diced
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chile powder
1 tsp ground cumin powder
1 heaped tsp ground coriander powder
2 medium tomatoes roughly pureed
1 tsp MDH Kitchen King Masala
1 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp soy sauce
one and a half cups bell pepper cut into petals (1/2 inch square pieces)...the number of peppers depends on how large they are. About 3 small or 1.5 of those giant ones.
1/4 cup chopped cilantro for garnish

Method: Heat oil in pan. Add in slit green chiles and allow them to fry for a few moments until they start to slightly soften. Remove with tongs or a slotted ladle. Keep aside to use as garnish at the end of cooking. Add the chopped onion to the oil. Cook this until it is turning golden, then add in the ginger and garlic. Cook this until the ginger and garlic also turn golden. Now add in the turmeric, red chile, cumin, and coriander powder. Allow this to sizzle for a moment, then stir in the tomato. Stir the tomato-masala a bit until most of the water has evaporated from it and the oil has risen to the top of it. Now add in the salt, soy sauce, and MDH Kitchen King Masala. Mix in the chicken and stir well until the chicken has completely changed color and is no longer raw looking. Now cover the pot, turn the flame to the lowest setting, and cook about 10-20 minutes until the chicken is just completely done. You shouldn't need to add water because they chicken will release water as it cooks. If needed, add very little water. When the chicken has just reached the point of being done, add in your bell pepper petals and turn up the heat. Stir for a moment, then lower the heat, cover, and cook for 5 more minutes. You want the bell peppers to cook through but retain a gentle amount of crunch and good color. Now stir in 3/4 of your fresh cilantro. Pour into a serving dish and garnish with remaining cilantro and with the four fried slit green chiles.

Serve with white basmati rice or even Chinese style stir fried rice.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Vegetarian Haleem


Haleem replete with garnishes



*Can be made vegan by omitting the yoghurt

Haleem can be made with beef, chicken, or goat. But what about a vegetarian version? Here I have created one. This is not a low fat dish. It is rich and heavy due to all of the nuts, seeds, and oil. Vegetarians will enjoy this veg version of this classic dish which is eaten in many Muslim communities, but those who are used to rich, meaty versions of haleem will also enjoy this recipe.

For this you need a box of Shan Shahi Haleem. This box will contain a packet of lentils/grains and a packet of ground spices. For those of you who have not used Shahi haleem mix, this makes a HUGE amount of haleem. Since this is a labor intensive recipe with a lot of steps, I usually freeze half of the batch of haleem, or even divide it into thirds and freeze it. That way you can enjoy haleem without having to do the work every time. Alternatively, you can half the recipe.

Open packet of Shan Shahi Haleem lentil/grain mixture. Optionally, and 1/2 cup extra pearl barley. I do this because I like the chewy texture of the barley in the haleem. Wash the lentils/grains well and soak overnight.

So you need:
1 box Shahi Haleem Mix (take care not to accidentally buy the Shan Easy Cook Haleem)
1/2 cup pearl barley

Making the Masala Yakhni

To cook them make a vegetarian masala yakhni. You will need 10 cups of water. (I make this in two sessions in a glass bowl in the microwave, rather than all at once.) To the water you will add:

2-3 tbs medley of whole garam masalas. I buy a bag of mixed whole garam masalas, but if you need to assemble your own medley----a few bay leaves, pieces of cinnamon bark, a few cardamom pods, 1-2 black cardamom pods, whole coriander, cumin, fennel, cloves, black pepper, a tiny bit of nutmeg and mace, 5 dried red chiles.

Optionally, you can add Hyderabadi potli masalas. Don't worry about this if you don't have it. It just adds an extra level of flavor, but this is already a flavorful dish with lots of masala. I ordered my potli masalas online, but if you live in an area with a lot of Hyderabadi Muslims, the Indian/Pakistani store will have some of these masalay, and some ingredients will be in the ayurvedic section of an Indian grocery.

1 tbs stone flowers (pathar ka phool)
1/2 cup dried rose petals (sukhe gulab ke sej)
a 3 inch chunk of dried root of betel plant  (paan ki jar)
1 tbs all spice (kabab chini)
1 tbs naag kesar (I have no idea what word exists for this in English) 
1 tbs kapoor kachri """"
1tbs dried Vetevier roots (khas ki jar)
3 pieces pipli (long black pepper corn, piper longum)

In a large microwave safe bowl, add these masalas in 5 cups of water. Microwave for 6 minutes. Strain the water twice (use a fine sieve) and keep aside. Repeat with the same wet spices. Once you've microwaved and strained the spices in water twice, you can toss them out. They have done their job. You will end up with brown colored masala water. 

Optionally, you can boil the water and spices together on the stove top for 10 minutes. The result is called a yakhni, or broth.

The Lentils/Grains

Cook the soaked lentils/grains in the masala yakhni that you have made. This can be done by boiling and then covering on simmer for about 1 hour, pressure cooking (in 2 split batches), or even left overnight in a crockpot. Add 1/4 tsp turmeric to lentils/grains as they cook. You can add 3-5 green chiles to the lentils when you boil them to make it extra spicy. But don't add salt unless you are cooking in a pressure cooker.  Otherwise add salt after the lentils/grains are completely cooked. You need about 2 tbs salt. (This is going to end up being a huge pot of haleem, but you can split the recipe in half if you use half the Shan lentils.)

Keep the cooked lentils aside in the vessel in which you want to finish the dish (large pot, crockpot, etc). You will have a bunch of cooked lentils in starchy water. Take care that the pot you use have room to add more ingredients because you will be adding your vegetables and spice paste and you don't want overflow or difficulty in pureeing later.

The Vegetables

For the vegetables which will be cauliflower and eggplant. You can really use any vegetable but avoid veg that will give the haleem a strange color. Haleem varies in color from khaki tan to yellowish to golden brown...so no large quantities of green or orange veg.

Chop one medium head of cauliflower in florets and deep fry them until tender. The cauliflower does not have to be completely cooked from frying because it will cook further when you add it to the haleem.

Roast 2 large eggplants in the oven. Do this by stabbing them a few times with a knife, coating lightly in oil, and wrapping in foil, then baking on a foil covered tray at 400 degrees for 1 hour and 20 mins. When the eggplant cools, skin it and remove the seeds and keep aside.



The Spice Paste

For the masala:

1 whole packet Shan shahi haleem masala spice.
1 heaping tbs garam masala
1/4 heaping cup almonds
1/4 heaping cup cashews
2 tsp roasted ground white poppy seed (khashkhaash or khas khas)
3 tbs roasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut, browned (I use frozen Indian coconut from the desi store and toast it in the oven)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
5 fresh green chiles
3 tbs Greek yoghurt, whipped
pinch of salt
3/4 loosely packed cup of red fried onions/birishta (linked instructions for making birishta)
1 cup oil (best if you have oil from frying the birishta)
2 tbs ginger/garlic paste

Soak the cashews and almonds in warm water for 1+ hours. In a blender add the nuts and soaking water. Add the fried onion, sesame seeds, coconut, and green chiles, and pinch of salt. Grind, adding a little more water as necessary.

Heat  the cup of oil in pan. Fry the ginger garlic paste. When this looks golden, stir in the masala paste. Fry this for 5 minutes. Add in the mint leaves. Turn off the heat and add in the yoghurt. Keep stirring until the oil starts to rise to the top of the mixture again. (Turning off the heat and stirring like this prevents the yoghurt from splitting.) VEGANS: just omit the yoghurt. Turn the heat back on and keep stirring, frying for 5 more minutes. Add in the roasted poppy seed and the full packet of Shan Masala (use less for less spicy) and stir for 1 more minute. Turn off flame and stir in garam masala. You should have an oily, spicy mixture.

Blending


Take out 1.5 cups of cooked haleem lentils grains + liquid and keep aside. This will be added back to the pot after you have pureed the rest of the haleem to give some chewy, grainy texture to the dish because of the pearl barley. Some people like a pure paste with no texture, so you can skip this if you want. I like the texture of some pearl barley in the haleem.

Add the vegetables and spice paste into the grains/lentils. Puree well with a stick blender. (This can be done well in a blender, too. That's just more work.) Add back in the un-pureed lentils/grains. Allow this to cook on low for a while so the flavors blend well. You can add water to get the consistency you like. Some people prefer haleem like a thick daal, others like a thicker paste. It shouldn't be too liquidy or too thick, though. If you add water, be sure to taste for salt. You've added a lot of salt but this is a huge degchi/pot of haleem, so check the salt. I think based on the recipe I have given that I usually add 1 cup to 1.5 cups water towards the end to achieve the consistency that I like.

Cook on low for 20 mins or so to let the flavors blend well.

Finishing with a baghaar

2-3 tbs oil
3 tbs birishta/brown fried onions

Lastly, give a baghaar/tarka of oil and birishta/fried onions. Use about 2-3 tbs oil and 3 tbs brown fried onions. Take care not to burn the already fried onions in the oil. Rather than just tossing the pre-fried onions into the haleem, awakens their caramelized sweetness and flavor. Pour this hot oil-onion tempering on the haleem. You may stir in the baghaar or leave it showing on the top, as per your preference.

Oila. You have vegetarian haleem!

Optional: Traditionally, haleem was made over a wood fire. Haleem cooked this way has a special smoky flavor. To replicate this and make your haleem extra fancy, add a "dhungar" (smokey flavor) by heating a small piece of coal on the stove, then placing the hot coal in oil inside of a little metal katori/dish to the haleem, and covering the pot so it can get smoked for 20 minutes. Then pour in some of the oil from the dhungar and mix well. Be sure to use pure charcoal and not a chemical filled briquette. This blog has instructions with pics on giving dhungar...there are also some youtube vids on it if you search.


Don't forget the garnishes! 

fried cashews, matchstick ginger shards, finely chopped green chiles, fried onions (birishta), fresh chopped cilantro, a tiny squeeze of lemon juice, and optionally, some chaat masala. This haleem is rich and spicy, so you may not want the chaat masala, though.

You'll have to prepare a small amount of these garnishes and set them on a platter next to your haleem as your serve it for each diner to add to their own dish.

Serve with naan.


*This dish is rich and fattening. You've used more than a cup of oil plus all kinds of fatty nuts and seeds. But this is a large batch of haleem, so don't worry too much. You can likely get 20 or more cup sized servings out of this recipe.















Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Brown poha with the husk on Poha Cheora Chira

Bag of husk-on poha aka chira in Bengali

Cooked poha studded with potatoes, onions, peanuts, curry leaves, green chiles, and cilantro.


I wanted to note this find: I got husk-on brown poha at a Bangladeshi market. I used my regular poha recipe. But I had to wash this poha well to remove the gritty chaff and soak it for 45 minutes. (I experimented to reach my conclusion on the soaking time.)

It came out well. The poha itself was nutty, as brown rice typically is. I still like white poha better. But this is a good high fiber option.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Aloo Anday ka Saalan (Potato and Hard Boiled Egg Curry) #2

A very simple recipe to use for daily cooking, I make this a couple of times a month. I typically serve this with a wet daal or a simple vegetable dish such as bitter greens or karela. The gravy, potato, and egg taste delicious mashed into plain rice. You could even serve this as a solo dish and set out a selection of pickles and a raita on the table. This saalan (wet curry) also goes well with roti.


Oil has been poured off but you can still see some oil in the finished dish or this wouldn't be a proper saalan!



For this dish you need 5 hard boiled eggs peeled and cut in half. I discovered a couple of years ago that if I steam hard boiled eggs on medium heat for 14 minutes, then remove them from the steam and let them rest for 15-20 minutes, they turn out with a perfectly cooked yellow yolk.

In addition you need 1 large potato or 2-3 small potatoes peeled and cut into wedges that are similar in size to the hard boiled egg halves.

The saalan:

1/2 cup oil (oil will be poured off later)
1 tsp whole cumin seeds (sabut zeera)
1 medium onion sliced thinly
1 heaping tbs ginger-garlic paste
2-3 finely chopped green chiles (I ground these with the ginger-garlic paste)
2 large ripe, juicy tomatoes finely chopped, or 2 cups of roughly pureed tomato
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1/2 tsp red chile powder
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tbs coriander powder
2 cups water
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 pinch Shan Curry Powder or any Kitchen King Masala
1 pinch dried methi rubbed between palms (qasoori methi)

Heat oil in pot and add in cumin seeds. As they sizzle toss in the sliced onions. Stir onions frequently on high heat. When you see that a lot of moisture has evaporated from them, turn down the heat and allow the onions to cook until they are golden. Turn up the heat and add in the ginger garlic paste and finely chopped green chile. When the ginger garlic paste changes color from pale to golden, add in the tomato. Stir tomato on high heat for a while. Add in your turmeric, red chile powder, cumin, and coriander. Cook this gravy for a while until all of the moisture has evaporated from the tomatoes and you have a paste with all of the oil on top of it. Remove from the heat and pour off as much oil as you can without losing any gravy. (You can discard the oil or re-use it in a red meat curry dish.) Put pot back on the stove. Set the flame to high and add in the potato. Stir for a moment, then pour in the water.  Stir in the salt. Allow this to come to a boil. Cover the pan and turn the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are completely cooked. When they potatoes are cooked, turn off the heat. Toss in the curry powder and the dried methi and stir. Add in the hard boiled egg halves and gently shake the pot to allow the top of the eggs to get covered lightly in gravy. Ideally they shouldn't be completely submerged so that they are visible and look pretty. If you care to make this daily dish fancier, pour the gravy in a flat rimmed serving dish, then arrange the eggs in the dish, spooning some gravy on top of each egg. The eggs should sit in the gravy for 5-10 minutes so that they pick up the saalan's flavor.

For an alternative alu anday recipe that does not use the typical tomato-onion masala, see here.


Served with healthy brown basmati rice with the gravy mixed and mashed in. Yummy to eat with fingers!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Baingan ka raita (Cooling yoghurt with fried eggplant)


This is an excellent raita to serve at parties or on any day that you have made a pullao or biryani. It is fancy and takes some time to prepare, so it is not an everyday raita. (We have plain yoghurt with daily meals, anyhow.)

You will have to make this raita in three steps.

Step 1) Roast you masala: Here you will prepare a red chile powder-cumin masala. The quantity I give here is more than you will need for one raita recipe. I prepare small amounts of this masala to keep on hand for most of my raita recipes.

2 heaping tbs whole cumin seeds
2 tbs powdered cumin
1 tsp red chile powder.

Heat a flat frying pan. Add in the whole cumin seeds and stir frequently, allowing them to color, but taking care not to burn them. Pour them into a wide bowl and keep aside, allowing them to cool. Turn off the flame under the pan, but when you have just poured out the whole cumin seeds and the pan is still very hot, put in the cumin and chile powder. Stir these with a wooden spoon for a few moments, just allowing them to release their oil and fragrance and wake up their flavor. Put this in another bowl and keep aside until it is cool.

When the whole cumin seeds are completely cool, add them into your spice grinder (mine is a small coffee bean grinder) and coarsely crush the seeds by pulsing the button a few times. There should be large bits of seeds and some whole seeds in the powder.

Pour these powders into separate storage containers, and keep them for use in raitas.

Eggplant cubes before frying
Step 2) Frying your eggplant: Select two medium sized, young eggplants. The less seeds, the better. My farmer's market has great eggplant right now, so this is why I made this recipe today.

Chop eggplant into bite sized cubes. The size I do is about 1 inch cubed. Keep aside.

You will need about 1/2 cup flour with a pinch of salt in it. Put this inside of a deep bowl.

Salted flour in a deep bowl for lightly dredging the cubes.

Pour about 2-3 cups oil into a vessel for deep frying. When the oil is hot, quickly toss about 1.5 cups of eggplant cubes in the flour and remove them, tapping off the excess flour, then putting them quickly into the oil. Fry these cubes until they are nicely golden and set them aside on paper towels. Repeat this in batches.

Frying the eggplant cubes
The flour helps keep the eggplant in shape. The good thing about this raita is that you can prepare the eggplant cubes earlier in the day, and keep them out of the fridge on the countertop and they will stay in good shape. You want to add these to the yoghurt mixture just before serving, otherwise moisture can seep out of them and discolor the raita. Even if you plan to fry the eggplant cubes and serve the raita right away, you MUST keep the cubes to the side until they are completely cooled. Do not add hot eggplant cubes to your yoghurt for this recipe.

Keep the fried cubes aside. They can sit out for half a day.
Step 3) The raita...making it all come together

4 cups of plain full fat yoghurt, which is a 32 oz. tub. I prefer Dannon brand since it only contains milk and yoghurt culture. There are no thickeners.
1/3 cup whole milk
1 tsp plus a pinch of salt (or to taste)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp chaat masala from a box
1/4 tsp white pepper
Ingredients for the raita
1 tsp coursely crushed cumin seed powder (see above)
1 tsp roasted cumin powder-chile powder mix (see above

Mix all of this together well.

Add in these vegetables:

1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 finely chopped green chiles
1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped onion*
1 tomato, seeds and pulp removed, finely chopped


When you have mixed all of these things together, you can keep this in the fridge until you are ready to serve. At serving time, add in your fried eggplant cubes.

*If the onion seems strong tasting, soak the onion in cold water for 20 mins while you cut the other ingredients, then strain it and add it to the yoghurt. This will temper the sharpness of it so that it won't overpower your light raita.










Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fish shami kababs





Usually you see beef, mutton, or chicken shami kababs.

I decided to try to make them using fish. This is a #whattodowithshanmasala recipe.

They came out well. This is a complicated and cumbersome recipe. You can make these for a party. These freeze well so it is nice to make a bunch and then keep some in the freezer to defrost as needed.

I used basa fish, but you can use any kind of firm fleshed, mild white fish. Use half the recipe for a family sized amount of shami kababs, but for a party, this will make around 26-30 patties, depending on how big you make your patties. I make mine by scooping two tablespoons into my hand so that I can be sure that all of the patties will be the same size. I don't have kabab skillz like some people who can make all of the patties the same by eyeballing.

Mise en place ready to go. 
Ingredients:

2 lbs fish filets cut into pieces, soaked in 1/4 cup vinegar, turmeric, and chile powder (1 tsp each) for 30 mins, then rinsed and patted dry
3 cups boiled channa daal (soak 1.5 cups raw daal for one hour, then boil, lower heat and cook for 20 mins until completely tender but still whole, strain, and set aside)
1 small onion chopped finely
1 small onion chopped roughly
14 green chiles (no need to chop since these will get blended)
3 tbs garam masala
2 heaping tbs Shan Shami Kabab Masala
1 conservative tsp elaichi seeds (unhusked black seed)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup loosely packed cilantro
pinch of salt (maybe 1/2 tsp, but taste the patty dough because it will be fully cooked and adjustable)
1 egg for binding
1 tbs lime juice
3-4 eggs for dipping
3 tbs  oil for making the meat
oil for frying shamis

Method:



Cooked ingredients.
Heat 3 tbs oil in pot. Add in the finely chopped onions and fry for a few minutes until they become clear. Add in ginger garlic paste and 8 green chiles. Stir this until the ginger garlic is golden. Add in the fish and the powdered masalas. Stir until fish is fully cooked. Add in the lentils and mix well.  Stir till this looks very dry. Turn off the flame. Add salt. Be conservative because you can always add more salt but cannot take salt out. Allow this to cool for a few minutes. Add in the remaining fresh green chiles, mint, the roughly chopped onion, and the cilantro, and mix. Transfer to a blender and blend until it is a smooth paste. If I make this full amount, I do this in three batches with lots of scrape downs of the blender jar. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Taste for salt, and add more if need be. Stir elaichi seeds, and lime juice. Finally, stir in one beaten egg. Put this in the fridge for an hour or two to let it cool completely and firm up a bit.


Blended mixture.
When you are ready to fry, heat up 1/4 cup oil in a wide frying pan. Beat your 3-4 eggs (or however many you need) with a tiny sprinkle of salt. Form patties in your hands and dip them in the egg wash. The fish shami kabab patties are very soft and hard to work with. Fry only a few at a time so you can manage. Put them in the frying pan for a few moments, then turn over and allow to brown on the other side. Remove from oil and keep on a plate covered in paper towels to absorb some of the oil The soft shamis will firm up a bit as they cool down.




Serve these with ketchup or coriander chutney or tamarind chutney. These also go well on a sandwich.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Green Channa Hara Channa Masala




This is a recipe for green desi channay. These are freshly picked, un-hulled (skin on) young desi chickpeas...the small desi variety that is hulled and split to become channa daal, not the larger foreign channa (kabuli or safaid). I usually get these frozen in a bag from the Indian store.

The brand I buy is already cooked and salted. I simply need to pour the bag of frozen channe into a bowl of water and strain them a few times to de-frost them. If you find fresh ones or frozen un-cooked ones, you would need to boil them till tender.

The bag I buy comes with 310 grams of chickpeas, or almost 1.5 cups. This recipe is for that amount.

Ingredients:

1.5 defrosted green channa, method for prep described above. The channe should be a little bit wet from washing.


2-3 tbs oil
3-4 slit whole green chiles
1 tsp zeera
1/8 tsp/a pinch of hing (asofetida)
6-8 curry leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chile powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tbs fresh lime juice
a sprinkle of salt, if desired

Garnish:
1/4 cup or so chopped cilantro

Heat oil in pan. Add in slit green chiles. When their skin starts to blister, add in cumin seeds. As this colors, add in the hing, curry leaves, and all of the dry spices. Let this sizzle for a moment, but take care not to burn. Dump in washed de-frosted channe. Stir the channe into the masala. Turn down the flame and cover. Cook on low for 5 minutes. Turn off the flame. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt if frozen channe have been pre-salted. (If your channe haven't been salted, I would add salt before closing the lid a step earlier.) Pour on lime juice and mix well. Stir in some cilantro, transfer them to a serving bowl, and add more cilantro to the top of your dish as a garnish.


This dish is dry and goes well as a "side dish." It can be eating plain between bites of other food, or with roti.